Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

Today is one of my best friend’s birthdays, and I wanted to surprise her with a mini cheesecake. She loves mint Oreos, so I thought a chocolate mint cheesecake would be appropriate. My mom has a cookbook at home called Mother Wonderful’s Cheesecakes, and they really are wonderful. I have several that vie for favorite, but I’ve certainly made this one a lot.

Just because you make something often doesn’t mean you don’t have off days. Tuesday night was such. My mini cheesecakes tasted good but were not up to standard in the looks department! I put a cookie sheet underneath the springform pans instead of a pan, and butter leaked all over the oven, causing quite a bit of smoke and a big mess. I couldn’t put them back in the smoking oven for fear of the smoke detector going off, so I had to finish cooking them in the toaster oven! Meanwhile, I forgot to tint the topping and tried swirling it in after it was already applied… yuck!

Fortunately, I had filling leftover in the fridge and the ingredients to make more crust and topping. So today I cleaned the oven and started over! And I’m happy to say that this mini cheesecake turned out perfect!

I began by preparing my pan. If you are making a cheesecake to take somewhere, you don’t want to use the bottom that comes with the springform pan, or you might not get it back! Trace the bottom on a piece of cardboard, cut out the circle, and then wrap it in foil. Place parchment paper over your new bottom and then pop it into the springform pan. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Pull out your cream cheese to begin softening as well.)

Next, I made the crust. I pulsed Oreos in a food processor (about 2/3 of the package) until it was finely ground. Then I added the sugar and melted butter. Once it was combined, I took a spoon and pressed it into the springform pan. (Note: If you are doing mini cheesecakes, you’re going to have quite a bit of crust – spread it out between several pans. Otherwise, it’s enough to coat an entire 10-inch springform.)

Then it was time to make the filling. I put the cream cheese and sugar in my KitchenAid and mixed it well. I melted the sweet chocolate in the microwave and cut up Andes mints. Then I added both of these ingredients, along with the pinch of salt and mint extract, to the mixer. I scraped the bowl down several times to make sure the ingredients were mixed thoroughly, turned the speed down to the lowest setting, and added the eggs, one at a time.

I poured the filling into the crust. Make sure you leave room for topping! It will also rise a little bit. Now this is crucial: put a pan underneath your springform pan!! (Do as I say, not as I do.) Then bake for 40 minutes! (If you’re doing a mini cheesecake (4-inch springform), it will only take 30-32 minutes.)

IMG_20180314_142650 - Copy

Once the crust and filling were cooked, I let it sit for 10 minutes and prepared the sour cream topping. I measured out and mixed sour cream, sugar, and mint extract and added a drop of green food coloring to the mixture. Then I spread it on top of the cheesecake with a rubber spatula. This then went back into the oven for 10 more minutes. After this, it’s done! It needs to go straight from the oven to the refrigerator, to prevent cracks from forming. It also tastes best if you can make the cheesecake the night before so it can sit overnight in the fridge. I thought this mini cheesecake turned out pretty cute, and I hope my friend and her husband enjoy it!

Happy Birthday, Taylor!

IMG_20180315_141034 - Copy

Recipe for Chocolate Mint Cheesecake
From the Kitchen of Mother Wonderful 😊

¼ lb salted butter (one stick), melted
2 c finely ground crumbs from Nabisco Famous Wafers OR Oreos
¼ c sugar

Pulse chocolate wafers or Oreos in a food processor until finely ground. Pour melted butter and sugar into food processor and combine until well blended. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

4 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 ¼ c sugar
1 tsp mint extract
Pinch of salt
3 ½ oz Baker’s German sweet chocolate, melted
2 oz Andes mints, chopped finely
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar, and beat for 2 minutes, until soft. Add the mint extract, salt, melted chocolate, and chocolate mint bits and blend thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on the lowest speed. Mix until each egg has been incorporated into the batter. Pour filling into crust and bake for 40 minutes. (If ingredients are not at room temperature, add five minutes to the baking time.) Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the topping.

2 c sour cream
¼ c sugar
1 tsp mint extract

Combine sour cream, sugar, and mint extract in a small bowl. Spread evenly over top of baked filling and return to 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place in the refrigerator to cool.

It tastes best if it can sit overnight to cool completely and finish setting up! Enjoy!


Bacon and Veggie Frittata

Today is my brother’s birthday – Happy Birthday, John! Here’s a recipe for you!

I’m doing a new workout program with one of my best friends, and we’re following a stricter nutrition plan along with it. It requires a lot more protein and vegetables and less carbs. Last year I posted a quiche recipe. This week I modified it to cut out the carbs. A frittata is similar to a quiche, just without the crust! This turned out really yummy, and I’ve eaten it for the last five mornings! You can switch out the meat to be crumbled sausage or diced ham. I used bacon since I had some leftover in the freezer. You can also add mushrooms and tomatoes (just leave the tomatoes until the end and dot them on top of the mixture before placing in the oven).

I began by preheating the oven to 350 and greasing a 9×9 inch pan. Then I diced up some bell pepper and onion and sautéed them over medium heat. While they were cooking, I chopped up the spinach and bacon.

Next, I carefully cracked my eggs in a large bowl and measured out the spices. Then I combined all the other ingredients with the eggs – the sautéed vegetables, spinach, bacon, spices, and almond milk. (You can use regular milk if you prefer. I just wanted mine to be dairy-free.)

I whisked everything together until it was mixed well. Then I poured it into the prepared pan and baked it for 25 minutes. I cooked it on Sunday night, cut it into pieces, and placed it in the fridge. Every morning I pull out a piece and microwave it for a minute until it’s heated through. Yum! Hope you enjoy this healthy breakfast!

frittata - Copy

Recipe for Bacon and Veggie Frittata

10 eggs
½ c. bell pepper, diced
½ small yellow onion, diced
3 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped
1 large handful of spinach, washed and chopped
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. unsweetened almond milk
(Optional: cherry tomatoes, cut in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your pan. Spray a 9×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

In a small skillet, sauté the bell pepper and onion.

Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add spices, milk, sautéed vegetables, bacon, and spinach. Whisk well. Pour into prepared pan. (Top with tomatoes if desired!)

Bake for 25 minutes and serve!

(Leftovers refrigerate well and can be heated up later.)


Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Happy Valentine’s Day! In our house, we celebrated with homemade pizza and heart sugar cookies.

I LOVE pizza. Some may remember me posting my pizza dough recipe a while back. I still like to make this dough for family and friends. Unfortunately, I have some food allergies and need to avoid bready foods as much as possible, which means none of that delicious dough for me. Now when I want pizza, I like to make a cauliflower crust. It still allows me my pepperoni and cheese fix and is a healthier option. 😊 This comes together very quickly and uses minimal ingredients (most of which you probably will already have on hand)!

I began by preheating the oven to 400 and steaming the cauliflower in the microwave. I placed the bag (still sealed) in the microwave and set it for 5 minutes on high. Then I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprayed it with cooking spray.

IMG_20180214_165609 - Copy
(This is the type of cauliflower I like to use.)

While the cauliflower cooked, I cracked two eggs into a bowl and then measured and added in the two cheeses and spices. I whisked these ingredients together and then added in the cooked cauliflower. Once it was mixed well, I poured it onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread it out so that it was even.

I cooked the crust for 20 minutes and then added on my toppings. Then it went back into the oven for another 10 minutes so that my toppings were heated through and the cheese was melted. Delicious!

IMG_20180214_174404 - Copy

Recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Crust
(Modified from the Food Network!)

1 bag of riced cauliflower
2 eggs
½ c shredded mozzarella
¼ c grated Parmesan
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and grease with cooking spray.

Steam the riced cauliflower according to the directions on the bag. (Leave it in the bag and cook on high for 5 minutes. Let it sit for 1 minute before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients.)

While the cauliflower is cooking, measure out the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and beat together. Add in the cauliflower and mix well. Pour onto the prepared parchment paper and spread out evenly.

Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add sauce and pizza toppings. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Enjoy!



Mom’s Chicken Salad

It’s only February, but it’s been in the 80’s here in Arizona! While I am enjoying the warmth and sunshine, it means no more heavy, warm foods! (Or at least less of them.) I made up a batch of my mom’s chicken salad last week and we enjoyed it for lunch almost every day. This recipe uses apples and dried cranberries which make it sweet, and a combination of light sour cream and mayo to make it creamy. Serve it on crackers, bread, or apple slices to make it into a yummy meal or snack!

This recipe is extremely easy and mostly uses the ½ cup and ½ tsp, which means little clean-up! I began by preparing the chicken. Any time I buy a rotisserie chicken, I try to skin it and remove it from the bone while it’s still warm. That way I just have to pull it from the fridge and cut it up when I’m ready to use it.

I cut and measured the celery, green onion, and apple and then measured out the rest of the ingredients. Everything was tossed into a bowl, and then I stirred it well. I placed the lid on my bowl and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Once it was cool, we ate it on club crackers! However, my husband also loves it as a sandwich on a fresh croissant. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Recipe for Mom’s Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken (cooked, skin removed, and meat diced)
½ c celery, chopped
¼ c green onion, thinly sliced
½ c light sour cream
½ c light mayo
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ c dried cranberries (Craisins)
½ c apple, chopped (peeled)
Salt and pepper (season to taste)

Skin a rotisserie chicken and remove from bones. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate in a sealed container. Enjoy!


Chicken Poppyseed Casserole

Last night I made chicken poppyseed casserole for dinner, and we have been enjoying the leftovers today. My best friend introduced me to this recipe in college, and nearly a decade later, it’s still one of my go-to dinners. The last couple of times I’ve made it, I have tweaked a few things to make it easier and creamier! This is delicious, filling, comfort food, and it is always a hit with the family.

I begin by preparing my chicken. I used to use several chicken breasts, but sometimes they would end up dry and a little disappointing. I now use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and I try to cut it up while it’s still warm. This helps the skin come off easier too. I discard the skin and then pull or cut off all the meat, both light and dark pieces. All of it goes into a mixing bowl, and the chicken carcass goes into the trash.

IMG_20180111_180051 - Copy

To shred the chicken, the easiest and quickest method I have found is with my KitchenAid. I use a paddle attachment and put it on the “stir” setting for a couple of minutes. This shreds it much finer than forks, but if you don’t have a mixer, forks will work too.

IMG_20180111_181205 - Copy

Once the chicken is shredded, I dump the cream of chicken soup and sour cream in and stir it by hand. I usually use the light sour cream and find that it does not affect the flavor; it is still creamy and rich!

IMG_20180111_181828 - Copy

I spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray and then spread the chicken mixture in the pan until it is even. Then I sprinkle crushed Ritz crackers all over the top and cover them with a light layer of melted butter. (I use almost a whole sleeve of crackers. I may leave 4 or 5 crackers behind.) Last, the poppyseeds get sprinkled on top (as many or as little as you want).

IMG_20180111_182437 - Copy

The casserole goes in to the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I like to get water boiling on the stove and cook egg noodles to go with the casserole. Yum! Just spoon the casserole over your noodles, stir it up, and it’s ready to eat!

IMG_20180111_185316 - Copy


Recipe for Chicken Poppyseed Casserole

1 small rotisserie chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 c sour cream (= 8 oz container)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray.

Pull skin off of the rotisserie chicken and discard. Pull meat off and shred, either with a KitchenAid mixer or with forks. In the same bowl, dump the soup and sour cream, and mix well.

Using a spatula, spread the chicken mixture into the prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle the crushed crackers on top. Carefully pour the melted butter over the crackers, and sprinkle with poppyseeds.

Bake for 30 minutes, until crackers are golden, and mixture is heated through.

Serve over egg noodles or rice!

IMG_20180111_191146 - Copy



Celebrate! · Food

‘Tis the season…

…for baking!

My kitchen is a disaster, and I spent forever washing dishes, but these Christmas treats are worth it! Today I made chocolate covered cherries, peppermint bark, and chocolate pretzels, and then I tried out a new sugar cookie recipe. I hope you enjoy these treats!

Recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherries

16 oz powdered sugar
5 Tbsp soft butter
2 Tbsp half and half cream <–I used whole milk today but used a little less.
½ tsp vanilla
2 10-oz jars maraschino cherries, well drained
8 oz Guittard melting chocolate or other melting milk chocolate

Drain cherries and lay on a paper towel to dry.

Knead the powdered sugar, butter, cream, and vanilla. Flatten a spoonful of dough in the palm of your hand and roll dough around a cherry. Place on a parchment lined sheet and repeat with the rest of the cherries. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Using a toothpick, dip each cherry and return to the sheet. Let them cool and continue to harden in the refrigerator. Store in a cool, dry place! Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark

Back home there is a cake decorating shop that I absolutely love. For quite a while my mom would bring me melting chocolate (milk, dark, and white!) when she visited, and my dad would joke, “They don’t have chocolate in Arizona!”. I recently found a shop that carries good chocolate, so my mom won’t be having to lug chocolate around in her suitcase anymore. However, the same shop back in Texas has the best peppermint pieces for bark. I haven’t found it here, but you could certainly crush candy canes and create a similar effect.

The peppermint bark uses a 2:1 ratio of white chocolate to peppermint pieces. I usually melt 1 lb of white chocolate in a double boiler and then stir in ½ lb of peppermint pieces. Once fully incorporated, spread it out on a wax paper covered baking sheet, and then refrigerate. I spread the chocolate fairly thin; it cools quicker and then breaks into pieces easier. I store my bark in a container in the refrigerator, so it lasts longer!

IMG_20171213_115122 - Copy

Chocolate Pretzels

These are extremely easy and always a hit! All you need is a bag of square pretzels, Hershey hugs, and m&ms. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap as many hugs as you want and then place each one on a pretzel. Bake for 3 minutes, just enough to slightly melt the hugs. Take out of the oven and immediately place an m&m on each hug. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let it continue to cool and harden. (Funny story: The grocery store was out of Christmas m&ms, so I had to sift through a regular bag and pick out the red and green ones! The things we do…ha!)

Christmas Cookies

I found this cookie recipe through Williams Sonoma – it’s a recipe courtesy of baker Patti Paige. These cookies are delicious and remind me of shortbread. I didn’t frost mine because they are great as is! The cooking time will vary. The recipe says 9-15 minutes, but mine were ready in 7-8. I think mine were thinner, thus the shorter baking time.

2 ½ c + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp (I was 1 Tbsp short, so I replaced 1 with shortening)
1 c + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract <– I used clear

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using a mixer, combine the butter and sugar on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix it until a dough forms.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Tear off 6 sheets of parchment paper – place a dough ball on 3 of them, and then place a sheet on top of each ball. Roll each ball into a flat disc, about ¼ inch thick. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take one disc out of the fridge and loosen the parchment paper until it comes away from the dough. Set it back on top of the dough (loosely) and then flip over and repeat with the other piece of parchment paper. This will keep the cookies from sticking!

Cut out shapes and place on a lined baking sheet. Cook for about 9 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned, and then let cool briefly on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

(These cookies don’t spread, so you can place cookies pretty close together when baking.)

Happy baking, friends!

IMG_20171213_133546 - Copy

Celebrate! · Food


Tomorrow we’re doing a photoshoot for my little girl, complete with a cake smash! Despite her main birthday colors being pink, green, and gold, I decided to play with color and bring in a rainbow of sprinkles for her cake. I’m always drawn to cake pictures that have dimension, and I’ve seen several that include macarons on the top.

Fortunately for me, I took a macaron cooking class at Sur la table a couple of years ago and learned the techniques behind them. These delicate cookies take a little bit of practice, but they are fun to make, and I’m going to share some of my notes from class (that you don’t see when you look at a macaron recipe). Please note that weather can affect macarons. They are easier to make if it’s drier – I’m quite lucky living in the desert for this. If it’s been extremely rainy and humid, your macarons may not turn out.

I used the ingredients for a basic macaron from my Macaroons cookbook by Love Food. In my cooking class, we used the same ingredients, but we weighed everything. I thought it would be easier to list the ingredients in cups on here, rather than in ounces. Please note that the following recipe does not make very many macarons. You will want to double the recipe if you are taking them to a party. However, for practicing the technique, the smaller ingredients are perfect!

I began by measuring out almond flour and powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. Since it was very fine, I did not put it in the food processor. I placed it and the powdered sugar in my drum sieve and sifted it over parchment paper. Then I transferred the mixture to a bowl, used a fork to make sure it was mixed well, and set it aside.

Next, I separated the eggs, one at a time, and placed the egg whites in my KitchenAid mixer. I added a pinch of cream of tartar and then whipped them on a medium-low speed. You want it to get foamy (like beer foam) before adding the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in a couple drops of food coloring, and then increase the speed to high. Let it whip until stiff peaks form and it gets glossy in appearance. To check if it’s done, you can stop the mixer, pull the whisk attachment out, and dip it in the whipped egg whites. Pull it straight up, and if there is a peak coming off the whisk (and it holds strong), then it’s ready. I really wish I had taken a picture of this step; I will try to get one and add it in later!

Now it’s time to add in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. You want to add in a third of it at a time. Don’t pour it all in at once! You’re going to fold it in, using a clock-wise motion. Go around the bowl once (“clean the bowl”), cut through the middle, and then around again. Keep doing this pattern until it’s all incorporated. Around – cut through – around; around – cut through – around…

IMG_20171004_141932 - Copy

Then I transferred the mixture into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. My class recommended a #12 tip, but I used a #10. It’s just one size smaller. (If you double the recipe, don’t overfill the bag! You can always add in more.) Get out a baking sheet and some parchment paper. Sur la table also sells silicone mats that have circles printed on them for macarons! (I traced circles on the back of my parchment paper but then decided not to use them.) To keep the parchment paper in place, “glue” the corners down with some of the filling.

Hold the bag straight up and down on the parchment paper and gently squeeze to let the filling come out. Use one hand to squeeze the bag and the other hand near the tip, as a guide. Don’t try to pipe circles. Just keep it in one place and count to 6. 1-2-3-4-5-6-stop. Keep doing this, leaving a space of 2 fingers between each circle. If you have a little swoosh in the middle, you can gently smooth it out with your finger (and a tiny bit of water).

IMG_20171004_143539 - Copy
I made one extra (on the bottom) to taste test later.

Once the circles were completed, I hit the bottom of the pan on my table to release any trapped air. Then I walked away and let them sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I made a unicorn shirt for a friend… random request! 🙂

IMG_20171004_155453 - Copy

After 30 minutes, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees and checked on the macarons. I let them sit another 10 and then they were ready to go in the oven. There should be a slight crust on them, and they should not stick to your finger when touched. They should almost seem hardened on the outside. I baked mine for 12 minutes, but I did check them after 10. Then I let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

IMG_20171004_152606 - Copy

Later in the day, I made my buttercream filling. I beat the butter and vanilla extract, and then added in powdered sugar. Once it was smooth, I folded in some dehydrated strawberry pieces.

To assemble the macarons, you can pipe the filling on the cookie or just use a knife. I went the simple route and spread it on with a knife and then sandwiched the pairs together. (Kind of twist them together instead of smooshing them.) I tried to get a little extra filling in mine so I could roll the sides in sprinkles. Once you learn how to make the cookie part of the macaron, you can do all kinds of fillings. One of my favorites is a lemon macaron with a white chocolate ganache! Stay tuned and I’ll make that one soon!


Recipe for Macarons
(Ingredients from Macaroons by Love Food; Directions from Sur la table cooking school)

Ingredients (for the cookie):
¾ c ground almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
2 extra large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (not in the book’s recipe; added in from my cooking class)
¼ c granulated sugar
Optional: gel food coloring

Ingredients (for buttercream filling):
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Optional: 4 strawberries, finely chopped ( I used a few pieces of dehydrated strawberries instead, chopped fine.)

(^This is a pretty standard buttercream frosting, just minus the milk. You want it to be thick for filling the cookie, instead of thinned out.)

Directions (for the cookie):
In a food processor, blend about a third of the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour into a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Using a drum sieve, sift mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the meringue: Using a mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment), whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once sugar is incorporated and mixture is thick, scrape down sides of bowl (add food coloring if desired) and increase speed to high. Whip until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold using a large spatula. Fold in the rest of the flour in two more additions, then check for correct consistency. The batter should be firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain round tip. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the bottom of each sheet on your table to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake macarons until crisp and firm, about 10-12 minutes. (If they are still soft inside, lower oven to 300, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top looks crinkled, your oven might be too hot!) Allow macarons to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

Directions (for the filling):
Beat the butter and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the strawberries if desired. Pair up macarons and use the filling to sandwich them together. (Spread onto the bottom of one and sandwich flat sides together.)



Baked Ziti

Every Tuesday I take food over to my grandparents-in-law. I’m not sure if that’s really a word, but you get the gist. They like casseroles and comfort food, and I try to make something that will give them a hot meal and also provide my little family with leftovers. I also have to make sure that the food is easy to eat.

This week I wanted to try something different, so I started looking through various cookbooks for ideas. I decided on a skillet baked ziti from my America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. And then because I didn’t write down the correct size of canned tomatoes when I went to the grocery store, I ended up modifying the recipe. I did not plan to write about this recipe, so I didn’t take pictures as I went. However, my husband raved about the ziti and how I needed to make it again, so I thought I would share the recipe!

4 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of pasta sauce (I used Classico’s spicy tomato and basil)
1 box of penne pasta (I used Barilla)
½ c whole-milk ricotta
½ c heavy whipping cream
½ c parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil + additional for garnish
1 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

I began by preheating the oven to 475 degrees and pulling out my dutch oven. I love using the dutch oven because it can go on the stove and then directly in the oven! I heated a little bit of olive oil over medium-high heat and then sautéed the minced garlic with red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Next, I stirred in the pasta sauce and moved the heat down to low.

In a separate pot, I boiled water and added the penne pasta. I cooked it for about 12 minutes and then drained the water. My noodles then got added to the dutch oven and stirred in to the sauce.

In a little bowl, I combined the ricotta with 1 tsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp each of salt and pepper. I then set it aside.

Next, the whipping cream, parmesan cheese, and basil were added to the pasta mixture. Once it was stirred in well, I dolloped the ricotta mixture over the top of the pasta and then sprinkled the mozzarella on top of that. I then turned the stove off and transferred the dutch oven to the oven for ten minutes. This made the cheese melt and brown in color. Once it was done, I removed it and added more basil to the top!

Baked Ziti

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 😊



Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Donuts

Good evening! I hope everyone is staying safe; the weather has been crazy lately. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, and I’m sad for those who are now being affected by Irma.

Today I decided to whip up something happy using ingredients already on hand, and I came up with gluten-free chocolate cake donuts. Because yum! Who doesn’t like chocolate? They were almost dairy-free, but I did use a few tablespoons of sour cream to make them moist. I only had unsweetened almond milk on hand, and it worked well! Next time I think I will sub out the egg with ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce and skip the sour cream, as the applesauce should help keep the donuts moist. Then it will be dairy-free and egg-free! I’ll let you know how it turns out once I try it. The donuts from today turned out good though; they taste just like chocolate cake.

I began by measuring out my dry ingredients and stirring them by hand. I used cup4cup gluten-free flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.

Then I mixed the wet ingredients with my KitchenAid, before whisking it into the dry mixture. These ingredients included an egg, sour cream, almond milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean paste. Make sure the wet ingredients get mixed well (especially the sour cream)!

IMG_20170907_142057 - Copy

I greased a donut pan, dusted it with flour, and then poured the batter in, to fill each of the six cavities. Then they baked for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the donuts were cooled, I inverted the pan on a wire rack and prepared the glaze. I decided to use a similar chocolate glaze that I used on my previous post for banana chocolate donuts, but with half the cocoa powder, since the donuts are already super chocolatey! I mixed powdered sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup, vanilla bean paste, and water. Then I spread some glaze on each donut, topped them with sprinkles, and they were ready for eating!

IMG_20170907_150907 - Copy

Recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Donuts

Ingredients for donuts:
1 c cup4cup gluten-free flour
½ c sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ c cocoa powder
¼ c chocolate chips
1 egg
4 Tbsp sour cream
¼ c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
¼ c vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla

Directions for donuts:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the wet ingredients. Then incorporate the wet mixture with the dry. Pour into a greased donut pan and bake for 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan and then remove before glazing.

Ingredients for glaze:
1 ½ c powdered sugar
1/8 c cocoa powder
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp water

Directions for glaze:
Whisk ingredients together. Using a spatula, top each donut with glaze and then add sprinkles!


Coconut Cream Pie

As promised, here is my grandmother’s recipe for coconut cream pie. It is a variation of her chocolate cream pie, and it’s delicious. I know coconut is not for everyone, but I love it, and it’s a great summer flavor.

And should you want the chocolate version, just replace the coconut with a Hershey’s bar and add 3 Tbsp of cocoa to the flour mixture. 🙂

This recipe calls for a baked pie shell. You can either buy one from the freezer section (Marie Callender makes a good one) or make your own! I went the homemade route and used the following ingredients:

1 ½ c sifted all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ c shortening
4-5 Tbsp cold water

I cut the shortening in to my flour and salt using a pastry cutter and then added a tablespoon of water at a time until I had a soft, pliable dough. This one can be rolled out right away; I used parchment paper with flour, which made it easier to transfer to the pie pan.

The crust baked at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes and then set out to cool. Then I got to work on the filling! (My crust doesn’t look the prettiest here, but the filling will cover most of it, and it tastes delicious!)

IMG_20170731_210511 - Copy

You want to prepare as much as you can ahead of time because once it starts to thicken, you have to move fast! I measured and combined the sugar, flour, and salt in a small bowl and set it aside. In another small bowl, I cracked the egg yolks and whisked it with water. The remaining ingredients sat close by and ready to incorporate! (The coconut and butter were measured out, and a teaspoon sat next to the vanilla.)

IMG_20170731_210947 - Copy

I heated up my milk in a sauce pan over medium heat and then stirred in the flour mixture. Then I turned it up to high to bring it to a boil. It began to thicken pretty quickly, and then I added the egg yolks.

IMG_20170731_211818 - Copy

Off the heat, I stirred in vanilla, butter, and coconut until it was combined. I poured it in my cooled pie shell and then immediately placed it in the fridge. Mine sat and cooled overnight, and I prepared the meringue topping the next day, close to when it would be eaten.

IMG_20170731_212841 - Copy

For the meringue, I used my KitchenAid to beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar. Once soft peaks formed, I added the sugar gradually and left it on high until stiff peaks formed. (Meanwhile, I preheated the oven and removed the cooled pie from the fridge.) Then I spread the meringue onto the top of the pie with a spatula, created a little bit of texture, and baked it for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. After it came out of the oven, I let it sit on the counter until time to enjoy it! Yum!

Recipe for Coconut Cream Pie
From the kitchen of Leslie’s Grandma Johnie

Ingredients for Coconut Cream Pie:
1 ¼ c sugar
3 heaping Tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp water
2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter
1 c coconut
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
Meringue or whipped topping

Ingredients for Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbsp sugar

Directions for Coconut Cream Pie:
Mix sugar, flour, and salt together; set aside. Add water to egg yolks and beat slightly; set aside. Heat milk in a large sauce pan. Blend in sugar, flour, salt mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture begins to thicken, add in egg yolks, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and blend in vanilla, butter, and coconut. Pour into a baked 9-inch pie shell. Cool in fridge. If using whipped topping, put on cooled pie and refrigerate. If using meringue, see below:

Directions for Meringue: Beat egg whites and salt with cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, beating on high until meringue stands in stiff peaks. Spread over cooled pie filling and seal to edge. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, until browned, and then let pie sit out until time to eat! (Prepare the meringue the day you plan to eat the pie. Leftovers can go in the fridge – the meringue just won’t look as pretty afterwards!)